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Hey everyone! Ashley, YBC®’s Editorial Director and Namaslay® YTT graduate, is sharing lessons learned in her intensive training in Thailand, and offers advice to anyone considering getting their yoga teaching certification. Check it out, and leave any questions or further advice in the comments! -xo, Candace
In writing this post, I got to reflect back on my time at the first Namaslay® YTT in Thailand. It felt so good to be transported back to my jungle yoga paradise with the beautiful souls I met there, and I was reminded of a few things I would advise anyone considering doing a YTT.
1. Stop comparing yourself to the other trainees.
Before my training, I was travelling alone and filled some of the evening hours in bed scrolling through Instagram, checking out the other trainees I was soon to meet. Some of them had incredible physical practices. Some of them started eloquent blogs and had inspiring stories, causes and missions. They were all beautiful and powerful, and I was excited to meet and connect with them. Though I was on my own journey, I noticed a sense of competition and comparison rising in me as I looked through the tiny picture squares. Rather than celebrating my strengths and unique story, my attention went to the poses my body could not yet find, the words I hadn't found the courage to write and share, the years I spent serving others and not practicing self care.
How much further along would I be if I had started sooner?
How much stronger would I be if I had found a little more time to train between work, study and social life?
What if, what if, what if...
I wish I could say I recognized my own power, pushed those thoughts aside, and spent the entire training standing in my own worth and strength without a thought for how I ranked in an imaginary line up, but the truth is, I had to lay the fight down every morning. I'd just read Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love (holy cow - so good), and so "only love is real" became my mantra to sort through the lies and show up as my best self, for me and no one else. Sometimes I would forget, but instead of finding guilt or shame in those moments, I told myself it was ok and went back to my practice - "only love is real." Jen Mehall, one of the incredible Namaslay® YTT teachers, said the moment you start comparing yourself to someone else, you're no longer practicing yoga.
It's tough to teach what you don't practice. To be the best teacher, best student, best version of yourself, start practicing right now. Focus on your own path, your own growth, and learn to sort the fear from the love, the lies from the truth. Then you'll free yourself up to appreciate the people you meet, the gifts they have to offer, and your experience will be rich.
2. Get your rest.
Especially if you're an introvert, an intensive training can be trying. The days are long (think 5am - 9pm of scheduled activity and study), and unless you've paid for a private room, your alone time is rare. So much growth happens in this little bubble of yoga study and like minded, supportive people, but that also means deep emotions may begin to surface. It's important to find a few minutes to yourself every day to sit with those thoughts and feelings and give yourself some breathing room. It might mean you wake up 20 minutes earlier for some meditation or a short walk, or maybe you work out a schedule with your roommate to allow each of you alone time in your room around a meal or just before bedtime. Whatever way you can make it work for you, give yourself the gift of space. Your time for sleep is short and precious, so invest in an eye mask or some night time, stress relief tea, and make your you time an untouchable ritual. Be your own boss, and keep your appointments with yourself.
PS - On a tad more practical note, I’d suggest bringing a yoga mat you’re comfortable spending a lot of time with. I bought a travel mat in Thailand just before my training because I wanted to travel light, but the long hours in the shala might have felt a little more comfortable if there was more cushion between me and the floor. You’ll practice, sit, study, and meditate from your mat.
3. Be present.
I know for some, taking two and a half or three weeks away from home, life, family, friends, work, can come with its own set of worries and stresses. Less the actual work of preparing for the training, travel, and study, trainees with families have to coordinate child care and new routines to keep the balance in their absence. Spouses, partners, and significant others have to work through the short term, long distance love.
Disclaimer - when I attended my training, I was a single teacher on summer vacation, with no children, so it couldn't have been easier for me to take time on my own away from home. But - I saw my friends struggling with homesickness, missing bedtimes with their babies, and longing for their lovers, and I get it.
My advice to you is this: be present. There is power in choosing to follow your path, even if it means a temporary withdrawal from all you give to others. When you invest in yourself, you are preparing to enrich the lives of others exponentially. When you return home from your training with greater strength, vision and awareness, your family and friends will only benefit from the time you spent away. If you're drawn to teaching yoga, you're probably a natural giver. Your inclination is to serve and give and share til your heart is content. How often do you get time away from the expectations to just be with yourself and check in with your heart? How often do you dedicate so much time to your personal growth?
This time is short. Your loved ones will grow in your absence. Your place will be held for you. Your value does not hinge on what you're able to give or not give over a couple of weeks. Send those emails and postcards. Schedule a FaceTime date. Use the miracle of technology to check in and send your love. Then allow yourself to trust that what you're about to receive during your training is FOR you, and open your heart and mind to an experience all your own. You deserve this.
4. Pay attention to what ignites a fire in you.
The Namaslay® YTT curriculum is well rounded and in depth. You'll of course learn anatomy, the science of sequencing, adjustments, modifications, and how to teach a safe yoga class, but you'll also get a bird’s eye view of a lot of different niches. From trauma sensitive yoga, to bigger bodies, to the business side of things, you'll be exposed to a lot of paths available to you in your teaching journey. It's easy to be overwhelmed, so be present. Take it all in, and just pay attention to what makes you excited.
Prenatal yoga doesn't really do it for you, but you'd love to teach to the seniors in your grandma's community? Great! Aim to understand the big picture ideas in case you have a pregnant woman in a future class, and then start thinking of ways you can take your learning further in gentle yoga for seniors. With so many yoga teachers out there, it's important to find the mission that calls to you specifically. There's no pressure to choose a specialty right away (or at all), but while your attention is focused and your mind is clear, listen to what speaks to you and go from there. Ask questions and pay attention - the yoga of learning. :)
5. Find connections.
Since you've decided there's no room for competition and everyone can have a seat at the table of success and abundance, you can make meaningful connections with the amazing people sharing the training experience with you. You might find life long friendships, relationships that start to feel like family, or collaborators for your future business as a yoga teacher. I'm not saying to start evaluating everyone based on what they can offer you, (“Mary has a HUGE following already, I'll definitely want to partner with her in the next yoga challenge!”) but be open to what naturally arises. I still send messages and letters to some of the friends I made during my training. I've chatted with some about future yoga retreat collaborations. I've promoted their businesses. Most importantly, even though it's been almost a year since we left Thailand (what?!), I STILL feel the love and support from my tribe. We cheer each other on from afar, and it FEELS SO GOOD to know someone has your back. We're all in this together. :)
If you've been thinking about taking a YTT or are currently in one, struggling to find your way, I hope this helps you find some clarity and appreciation for your goals. The next Namaslay® YTT is in Tennessee this August, and I'd love to see you there. There's also a weekend format training at Namaslay® Studios in Ridgefield, CT from June - October, with individual workshop options for those who want to deepen their learning but aren't ready for the full 200 hour training yet.
Let me know if you have any other advice or questions in the comments!